Julie McIsaac
January 29, 2020

Is it behavior or is it a learning challenge?

Maeve isn’t reading at the same level as her peers.  Books have always been around at our house and we try to read every night before bed. What else can I do? Won’t she just catch up?

Jack won’t get out of bed in the morning. We did all the right things.  We ate dinner in good time the night before and started our nighttime routine early; bath, pj’s, books, cuddles.  He happily gets up so early on the weekends. But he has made it clear he doesn’t like school. Why does he resist school so much?

Maeve isn’t reading at the same level as her peers.  Books have always been around at our house and we try to read every night before bed. What else can I do? Won’t she just catch up?

Rob is silly. He loves making people laugh. But lately he’s been getting in trouble and missing recess because of his behavior.  There have been some big transitions at home over the last few months. Maybe they’ve been affecting him more than I realized.  The more I dig and ask the teachers for their observations, patterns start to emerge. Rob is having a hard time every time his teacher is giving multi-step directions to follow on his own. Is it just behavior or could Rob be struggling with learning?

Katherine has many friends and loves going to school to see them. But at recess, she sticks to herself whenever organized game play begins. She would prefer to sit and talk and looks uncomfortable when asked to move her body. She’s been able to keep up with reading but the teachers are wondering if she’s relying on her memory to get through.  Could she benefit from some learning support?

Behavioral challenges can exist for many reasons. Sometimes they are rooted in a child’s learning profile. For example, if a child has a hard time keeping a symbol in their mind, imagine how hard that would be to develop reading and writing skills.  To read, and to understand what you are reading requires many steps.You need to remember the letter symbol and the sound associated with it, as well as the way the letters work together and what that group of letters represents. Taken together, we can start comprehending the story that a group of words can tell, but it is a complex journey! And one that we often take for granted.  Similarly, writing requires you to replicate that symbol and express it on paper, another skill. Now imagine you are going outside to play soccer and you need to remember where you are in relation to the ball, to the net, and to other players all while moving toward a dynamic and changing goal of trying to coordinate a shot. It’s a game, but it’s also a cognitive task.

If your child is struggling in school, there are professionals and supports to help you identify those patterns and get your child what they need to succeed.  Check out our Guides for help specific to your state. 

  • Julie McIsaac, Ph.D.

    Child Development and Disability Advisor

    Julie specializes in working with children and families with diverse developmental profiles She uses reflective practice, emotion-coaching, play and a relationship-based framework to support skill building in the areas of emotional-regulation and problem-solving. Julie consults with families, schools and community organizations. As a parent, she understands the need to have a cohesive team supporting a child and family.

    Profile Photo of Julie McIsaac
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